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Will Jewish Businessmen Invest in Israel?

Prominent rabbi meets Jewish-American businessmen and asks them to invest in Israel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/8/2010, 3:20 AM / Last Update: 9/8/2010, 3:12 AM

Efforts are always taking place to encourage more business investments in Israel by various  ministries and political figures..

One such effort came from an unusual source last week when Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto held a closed meeting with 80 Jewish American businessmen in the city of Silistra, Bulgaria, Yediot Aharonot reported earlier this week. During the meeting, Rabbi Pinto asked the businessmen to invest $5 billion in the Israeli economy, with $2 billion of it  in the coming year.

Among the businessmen who met with Rabbi Pinto was entrepreneur Jay Schottenstein and one of the owners of the Victoria’s Secret women’s wear retailer.

The rabbi told the businessmen during the meeting: “In such days of economic opportunities, we must remember that we, the sons of the Jewish people, must preserve the country, built it and ensure that its economic flourishes. It’s unfortunate that there are so many wealthy Jews in the world who don’t even consider the Israeli economy as an option.”

Rabbi Pinto is 37 years old and speaks only Hebrew. He comes from a centuries-old rabbinic family from Morocco, and has rabbinic connections on both sides of his family: On his father’s side he is the great-grandson of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, while on his mother's side, he is the grandson of the famed kabbalist Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Sali.

Rabbi Pinto, who lives and operates in Midtown New York City, is visited by many businessmen, both Israeli and Jewish-American, who consult with him on both business and personal matters. Some of the more well-known visitors he has received include Yitzhak Tshuva, talk-show host Donny Deutsch, real estate mogul Ofer Yardeni, and even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He has also been visited by Israeli politicians such as Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, MK Danny Naveh, and MK Danny Danon.

Recently, it was reported that NBA star LeBron James of the Miami Heat consulted with Rabbi Pinto and even paid him a six-figure sum to sit in on a merchandising meeting.

Silistra, the city in which the meeting with the businessmen was held, is the place where renowned Jewish scholar Rabbi Eliezer Papo is buried. Rabbi Pinto visits the grave once a year, as part of an event similar to the pilgrimage pf Breslav Hassidim  to Uman, Ukraine, the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav.

Recently, it was reported that French businessmen Baron Edouard de Rothschild has decided to move to Israel. Rothschild will live part time in his Tel Aviv home while continuing to maintain his businesses in France. In July 2003, Rothschild was made head of Rothschild & Cie Banque, a Paris based bank. He is currently a 37% majority shareholder in the French newspaper Libération, a left-wing daily French newspaper that was founded in 1973.